Sheffield Literacies and Language Conference 2024

Following on from last year’s ‘hopeful literacies’ conference, we are pleased to announce that we will continue the tradition of hosting an international literacies and language conference in Sheffield.

Futuristic image of an air balloon floating over an imaginary landscape

Towards (extra)ordinary literacies and linguistic futures

Friday 14 June  - Saturday 15 June 2024

This event is co-organised by the Literacies and Language Research Cluster, School of Education at the University of Sheffield with the Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University. Both universities have a strong track record of diverse approaches to research and scholarship in literacies and language, including digital literacies and post-digital research, multilingualism, multimodality, applied and socio-linguistics and arts-based research. 

About the Conference

Call for Papers

This year we invite you to explore possible futures, and the role of language, and of course literacies, in imagining new realities, beyond ‘standard’ language/s and deficit understandings of language/s. Our conference theme of futures builds on the developing body of research and scholarship in language-focused fields - including, but not limited to intercultural communication, literacies, applied linguistics and sociolinguistics - which calls on scholars to not take language for granted. This includes research which engages with post-human and new materialist philosophies, embracing the embodied nature of language and working to ‘decentre’ (MacLure, 2013) or ‘provincialise’ language (Thurlow, 2016; Harvey et al., 2021).  

Our questions for the conference therefore include how, as languages and literacies scholars, we might critically question the centrality of language in ‘communicating, knowing and being’ (Harvey et al., 2022: 103). How do we approach our work, with, but also beyond, language at a precarious and uncertain time? How might we imagine new linguistic realities through our work, collectively and collaboratively? How do we challenge the ‘deficit view’ of language which dominates policy?

Keynote presentations include Dr Julia Snell and Dr Ian Cushing on intersections of race, class and language in formal education, Dr Navan Govender, whose work explores relationships of power in and through language, and Professor Kris Gutiérrez who will respond to the theme to reimagine literacies and language research through a syncretic literacies and connected futures lens. 

We therefore invite researchers to submit a 250-word abstract for a paper, colloquium or poster for the conference. Please see details below for how to submit your abstract. 

We look forward to welcoming you to Sheffield in the summer of 2024. 

Call for Papers deadline 1 May 2024.

Please submit your abstract using this google formAbstract submission

Conference Programme:

Keynote 1

Utopian Approaches to Designing for Consequential Literacies

Professor Kris Gutiérrez, University of California-Berkeley

This keynote talk focuses on utopian methodological approaches taken up by social design-based experiments, their conceptual underpinnings and commitments. The methods discussed are drawn from Gutiérrez and colleagues’ empirical work across decades and detail ways of seeing and capturing human learning activity crucial to envisioning and enacting new social futures with radical possibilities for those from historically nondominant communities.

The talk elaborates a methodological commitment to seeking complexity in human learning activity, as it centres equity understood as world-making. To capture the dynamic and expansive nature of youth and intergenerational learning, a review of a range of methodological and conceptual tools employed across studies is presented—from an analytical focus on how people’s repertoires of practice are constituted through participation in everyday activity, as they move in and across the ecologies of everyday life.

Keynote 2

Dis/Re/Orientating Critical Literacies: Following the lines of imagination and affect

Navan Govender, University of Strathclyde: Institute of Education

What are the directions that critical literacies points us toward or away from? What happens if we turn critical literacies in different directions or toward different objects? And, what are the effects of “following the line” (Ahmed, 2006, 16) or treading new lines in the context of established and institutionalised traditions of English language and literacy teacher education?

In this presentation, I explore two ‘stories’ of doing critical literacies with (student) teachers. Pulling together critical literacy scholarship with Sara Ahmed's work in affect theory (2014) and queer orientations (2006), I trace the lines of reasoning, imagining, and feeling that we draw (separately and together) – as they surface across multiple modes and literate practices.

The first story explores the discursive design and negotiation of safe, brave, and contested spaces in English language and literacy teacher education in Scotland. I try to understand the role of texts and meaning-making in fostering asset-based pedagogies and mediating multiple perspectives.

Story two is a collaborative study with Professor Belinda Mendelowitz (Wits University) which explores how teacher-postgraduate students redesign the discursive constructions of gender, race, and coloniality in South African higher education. (Auto)ethnographic data works alongside the texts that (student) teachers collect, create, and curate to illustrated the complex entanglements of critique, imaginative and multimodal redesign, and a range of affective responses.

Following these lines reveals certain limits in critical literacies, potentials for empathy as solidarity’, and (re)imagining more equitable futures in/through English language and literacy education.


Ahmed, S. (2006). Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Ahmed, S. (2014). The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2nd Edition). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Keynote 3

Spoken language, social (in)justice, and the politics of ‘evidence’ in educational settings

Dr. Ian Cushing, Manchester Metropolitan University and Professor Julia Snell, University of Leeds

There is increasing impetus on educational practitioners in England to draw on ‘research evidence’ in their practice, especially in relation to issues of spoken language, and especially when framed under a narrative of social justice where it is (mis)assumed that racialised and working-class children can experience equality through the modification of their language.

In this keynote we take a sceptical stance on these trends and initiatives, demonstrating how current policy is informed by both flawed theories of spoken language and flawed theories of social justice. We expose the normative ideologies about language which lie at the core of England’s education system. We critique the academic knowledge production about language which informs this system. We question the theories of social justice which characterise current policy, and how these place responsibility on marginalised children to modify themselves whilst deflecting away from broader, structural determinants of oppression. 


Conference fees

£150 (Academic); £125 (Postgraduate Student); £75 (The University of Sheffield/Hallam University Staff)

To register for the conference, please visit:

Online store

You do not have to present, you can come and take part in presentations, interactive workshops, research creation events, and conversations with friend and colleagues.

Doctoral students, please follow this link for information about the Sheffield Literacies and Language Student Research Prize.

This year we are also awarding a Sheffield Literacies and Language Innovative Teacher Prize.

In alphabetical order

Conference organising committee

University of Sheffield 

Dr Aneesh Barai 

Oliver Barker

Kathryn Bennett

Dr Jessica Bradley

Dr Ryan Bramley

Dr Abigail Parrish

Professor Jennifer Rowsell 

Dr Fiona Scott

Sheffield Hallam University

Dr Chris Bailey

Dr Karen Daniels 

Dr Hugh Escott 

Professor Abi Hackett


Harvey, L., Cooke, P. and The Bishop Simeon Trust (2021). Reimagining voice for transrational peace education through participatory arts with South African youth. Journal of Peace Education, 18(1), pp.1–26. doi:

Harvey, L., Tordzro, G. and Bradley, J. (2022). Beyond and besides language: intercultural communication and creative practice. Language and Intercultural Communication, 22(2), pp.103–110. doi:

MacLure, M. (2013). Researching without representation? Language and materiality in post-qualitative methodology. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26(6), pp.658–667. doi:

Thurlow, C. (2016). Queering critical discourse studies or/and Performing ‘post-class’ ideologies. Critical Discourse Studies, 13(5), pp.485–514. doi:

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